Clint Hocking on ‘Replayability’

Clint Hocking writes about my favourite bugbear – the word ‘Replayability’:

Replayability is an oft-debated concept in game development…

But what does ‘replayability’ even mean? The word itself implies an obvious definition: that the game can sustain player interest over the course of multiple playthroughs. Yet in a practical sense, data shows that players rarely finish our biggest games, never mind play them multiple times.

I think the above definition of replayability is an oversimplification of a couple of concepts that deserve closer scrutiny.
Which… is kind of what I was proposing in my polemical ‘Replayability is not a word‘ post from a while back (which, incidentally, still gets a ton of hits). Perhaps a kind of eliminatism is in order – get rid of the word in favour of a multitude of descriptions instead. That’s what I (sort of) advocated in my immersion/attention video also.
Interesting to note though that even Clint still needed to explain the “obvious definition” of replayability – it’s easily still a contested and contestable term.

Diablo 3’s missed opportunity

You know how the story of Diablo 3 just doesn’t make any sense? And you know how Deckard Cain is kind of like the unofficial “hero” of the story, even though he gets killed off in the first act (OOPS SPOILERS)? He does all that research on weird esoteric stuff, and he knows all the batshit-crazy lore about which devil fought which angel and when, and then all he managed to do is tell it all to you as a disembodied voice over… I mean, the guy basically knows everything. According to this reading, Diablo 3 is an expression of the tortured mind of Deckard Cain and his attempts to stave off dementia and senility.

Read this way his own “death” in Act 1 becomes a transcendent event that, far from being a fearful one (Deckard is suppressing the reality of his condition by retreating into his deteriorating mind – that’s why the story keeps getting worse as it goes along!), is actually his imaginary escape from the limitations of his own body, into the safe realms of disembodied knowledge.

Small wonder then that the hero/player-character is such an insufferably confident egomaniac: “guided by prophecy” is just the convenient excuse to express the innermost desires of Deckard’s repressed Ego (scholars are always repressed). It’s also a fantastically simple explanation for why every character repeats the same story four times! The repetition reveals Cain’s desperate attempts to hold onto his failing memory, as he goes over and over his knowledge again and again, returning to rote learning exercises in a tragic, yet futile gesture. No wonder it’s so grindy.

This “story” would only ever end, if – or rather, when – the player forgets to ever return to Diablo 3 and never plays again, thus completing Cain’s slide into mental oblivion.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Diablo 3 actually supported this interpretation? Now that would be a story.

Attention and Immersion

A video essay about the term ‘immersion’ and why I think it should be replaced.

While video of Richard Lemarchand’s GDC talk is behind the GDC Vault paywall, his slides and text from the talk are online here.

I’ve received a few very nice replies and comments – Shawn Trautman wrote out some of his reservations and emailed them to me, and he quoted some of my reply here.

Robert Yang commented on the video when I posted it to my Facebook account, and he had the following to say:

I’d get more polemical than you and say that the industry actively encourages this fallacy, and the idea of the holodeck / this technology fetish results in an “immersion industry” where the Crysis 3 box says ridiculous shit like “aliens behaving realistically” — what the hell could that even possibly mean and who wrote that copy? But no one cares, because we’re used to it, and that’s what’s worth $60 instead of 6 indie games.

 

MLG[PRO] 420 FANVIDs

There’s a strange, and relatively new, genre of YouTube video, based on parodying the over-serious, über-gamer culture that surrounds professional gaming, and in particular the MLG (Major League Gaming) circuit. The typical MLG fragvid is full of over-the-top special effects, in-text commentary, and often accompanied by a dubstep soundtrack, oriented towards demonstrating a certain Pro player’s skill with the maximum of bravado. “360 no scope!” “no snipers” “~xXRunning RiotXx~” etc. The videos often reference drug culture, and feature ‘420‘ references and other elements of cannabis culture.

Sometime late in 2011 it seems some gamers across a couple of different communities (perhaps /v/ and some of the Reddit gaming sub-forums?) decided to spoof the MLG fragvid and in the process spawned a whole new genre of YouTube video. I find this parody genre strangely compelling, and for the sake of curation and posterity, have collected the best, funniest, and most demonstrative examples of the genre here in a YouTube playlist over half an hour long.

The playlist begins with my absolute favourite entry in the genre, a masterful repurposing of all the elements from the PRO fragvid. As an aside, I’ve been reading George Lakoff’s writing about categories, and following Lakoff, this first video is very much prototypical of this parody category. Bookending the playlist, the last video is a 5minutes long parody and is a less-subtle deconstruction of the MLG fragvid genre, but it makes quite explicit what is going on in this type of video. It’s useful, if less entertaining, because of how visible all of its “moving parts” are, so to speak.

There’s certainly more to say about what this genre means or is indicative of – yet more evidence of the fracturing of the gamer community as gaming becomes more mainstream and more diverse (if, perhaps, no less typically “masculine” yet), etc, etc. But there’s something very fun and clever about these parodyvids that is worth preserving without too much dissection.

So without further introduction, I present the collected playlist known as “MLG 420 PRO vids (xXCriterionCollectionXx)“.

Update: Okay so I collected 200 in the first playlist and hit YouTube’s limit for videos in one playlist. So here’s the sequel – MLGStackOverfl0w:

Far Cry 3 gameplay vid speculations

Things that I liked:

– Ziplines, but the larger point is there seemed to be plenty of freedom of movement in the arenas where firefights occur. Some of the other sections looked more scripted/tunneled.

– I liked that the hands and arms were quite prominent and active, though perhaps not to the degree seen in FC2.

– Some of the stealth looked okay, that was always a very hit-n-miss aspect of FC2.

– The jungles are looking pretty.

– Super glad to see that the crouch-slide maneuver is back! This is like one of the coollest things about movement in FC2.

– Press ‘A’ to mantle. More games really should be doing this type of thing.

– The guns (well, we saw three of them: an AK, a pistol and a shotgun, plus a grenade if that counts) seem nice and meaty.

– FUCK YEAH, SHARKS!

 

Things that I disliked:

– The generic voice over. I said it on twitter, but FC2 never needed protagonist voice because your hands and arms were expressive enough. Everything that needed to be “said” int he game was said through your hands (shoot, grab, splint, heal, etc)

– Return of the pseudo-mystical elements from Far Cry 1 & the earlier games. The horror-realism of FC2 would have been diminished if there was any supernatural element.  You can’t have both Lovecraft and God/Magic.

– Was there any fire propagation? Granted, it’s a jungle not a crackling African savannah but it’d be a real shame if they pulled out that tech just for some reason like “the jungle is too wet” or whatever. Napalm burns wet things, I’m sure. Oh well.

– The existence of a minimap.

– I didn’t notice how this was working till  Brendan pointed it out – but arrows that point to every enemy? What is the point of that?! This run-through is obviously on an easy difficulty setting (he spends much too long out of cover to live if it were anything else) so hopefully these things are only guides for the easier settings (or perhaps they can be turned off, the are very distracting).

– I’m going to miss the authentic accents, and I don’t care what anyone says about rushed dialogue. It was never that bad (except for in a few places) but I’ll take rushed authentic accents over the best amero-generic ones six our of seven days of the week.

 

Great Michel Serres quote

“The more one writes, the less one reads – it’s a question of time. But I stress: an authentically philosophical book is distinguishable from a learned book. The latter, loaded with quotes and footnotes, struts its erudition; it flourishes its credentials in the academic milieu, brandishes its armor and its lances before its adversaries. It is a social artifact. How many philosophies are dictated solely by the preoccupation with being invulnerable to to criticism? They present themselves as fortresses, usually sheltering a lobbying support group. In the wide open spaces of fear, only trepidation reigns.

I have come to believe that a work achieves more excellence when it cites fewer proper names. It is naked, defenseless, not lacking knowledge but saturated with secondary naivete; not intent on being right but ardently reachng fortoward new intuitions.

A university thesis aims at the imitable; a plain and simple work seeks the inimitable.”

From Michel Serres and Bruno Latour’s Conversation on Science, Culture, Time, p.22.

PALGN Behind-the-scenes

This pastebin contains a discussion thread between the owner of the Australian gaming site PALGN, and it’s volunteer staff, admin, writers, etc.

There’s so much to say about it really, but the most obvious is that it’s a really incredible example of The Sunk Cost Fallacy:

…having inherited the editorial position when PALGN was in the shit over three years ago, and having worked my arse off to maintain it, rebuild many damaged relations while building the best staff team ever, I’ll be damned if Iím going to walk away and let you reap the benefits that I’ve tried so hard to provide for this team.

All of these people other than Roland should clearly have cut their losses months, even years before the situation reached the downright abusive and destructive point it’s at now. I know one (perhaps two? maybe more that I don’t know about) people who did just that. I bet it now seems like the best things they could have done, in light of this.